Annual Meeting of the Deep Sky Section, 2007 March 3

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Annual Meeting of the Deep Sky Section, 2007 March 3

held at the Humfrey Rooms, Castilian Terrace, Northampton

Dr Stewart Moore, Director, opened the meeting with a summary of the past year's activities. Since the 2006 meeting, he had received in excess of 330 observations – an increase on previous years. The number of contributing observers had also risen, and he was especially pleased to see a growth in the number of visual observers: it was good to see that the art of admiring the aesthetics of objects at an eyepiece was still appreciated.

Three newsletters had been produced, available in hard copy for £4/yr, or in pdf format on the web. Dr Moore called for submissions, offering a free issue to anyone whose material was published. He remarked that the number of textual descriptions accompanying observations sent to him seemed to be in decline; he wondered whether this was a result of the rise of CCD imaging and urged members to keep up this art. In addition, he had sought to reach out to non-members by writing topical articles in the Observers' Forum sections of every issue of the BAA Journal, and by getting images by members of the section published there. Most prominently among those which had appeared in the past year, Gordon Rogers' image of the Christmas Tree cluster had been used on the cover of the December Journal.

Turning to observations, Dr Moore reported that Tom Boles had passed a milestone on 2006 April 3: the discovery of his 100th supernova; he had gone on to catch his 101st on the same night. His tally had since moved on to 105. Showing a selection of section members' images of Mr Boles' discoveries, Dr Moore commended Martin Mobberley for his habit of putting textual footers on his images, detailing the conditions and time of the observation; it was helpful to have this information so readily to hand. He urged others to follow suit where possible.

Turning to the section's observing programmes, Dr Moore remarked how the lack of popularity of the planetary nebulae programme had always surprised him – these were a varied selection of visually pleasing targets, and whilst some were quite challenging, others were visually accessible through even quite modest apertures. In the past year, their popularity had increased a little, however, and M27 remained the best observed of them. Dr Moore noted in passing that a new object, Howell-Crisp 1, had recently been discovered; Owen Brazell would say more about this later.

Among local group galaxies, NGC 147 in Casseopeia was suddenly proving very popular. The speaker challenged members to image Leo I – well placed at this time of year, but made very difficult by its proximity to Regulus, only 12' away. Visually it was very tricky – the speaker had found it barely visible through a 20" aperture – but he thought it should be quite possible with a CCD. One observation had been received in the past year, from Grant Privett. Leo II posed an even greater challenge, though the speaker showed a 15-hour exposure by Peter Erdmann in the US to prove that it was possible.

At the previous year's meeting, he had called for observations of Hubble's Variable Nebula, and these were still coming in. He was especially keen to receive regular observations made with a common eyepiece and in similar conditions; one problem when comparing observations from different observers was trying to distinguish equipment-related variability from that intrinsic to the sky.

He was also keen to receive more observations of supernova remnants; in his time as Director, he had never received any observations of Simeis 147, despite its being a beautiful large object in Taurus, subtending more than three degrees on the sky. Abell 85 in Casseopeia was another nice target.

Among the Messier globular clusters, Dr Moore had put out an especial plea for observations of M3, 5, 10, 14 and 22 at the 2006 meeting. These were bright and aesthetically pleasing clusters, and seemed to be often visited by visual observers, but less so by CCD imagers. The speaker hoped in due course to compile an illustrated Messier guide with good modern images of all objects, and so was keen to fill these gaps; he noted how imaging technology had moved along in recent times. In passing, he commended Nick Hewitt's imaging for his placement of objects in their surrounding starfields; as a visual observer, he liked to see deep sky objects put into context.

To close, he remarked upon the good turnout at the meeting. He invited members to get in touch if they had views upon Northampton's convenience and suitability as a venue for future meetings; in response, members expressed general approval. Andrea Tasselli was then invited to present the first talk.






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